International update: Global Covid infections pass 59.7 million – US faces third wave

25 November 2020 (Last Updated November 25th, 2020 08:24)

25 November

Global: Global coronavirus infections have passed 59.7 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll exceeds 1.4 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: US Covid-19 infections have passed 12.5 million, meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 259,925 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

President-elect Joe Biden said his transition team will not be “so far behind the curve” now that the Trump administration has begun cooperating on the fight against the coronavirus.

Texas recorded 13,998 new cases on Tuesday, setting a daily record, figures from the Department of State Health Services show. Almost 10% of the new infections came from El Paso County, one of the hardest-hit in the state.

California’s top public health official warned that the daily number of Covid-19 deaths in the state could top previous highs by Christmas, as a third wave of infections gathers momentum. The number of Californians hospitalized with the virus has more than doubled since the start of November, jumping from 2,537 to 5,844, said Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary.

New York state is headed toward a major surge in coronavirus cases, at least a 20% increase over the holiday season, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon shorten the length of self-quarantine period recommended after potential exposure to the coronavirus, a top official said on Tuesday.

UK: The British government’s £22bn test-and-trace system has failed to reach more than 100,000 people exposed to coronavirus in England’s worst-hit areas since the second wave began, official figures show, with four in 10 not asked to self-isolate.

The UK government lost a “crucial month” in its fight against coronavirus because it was slow to respond to a shortage of ventilators, the House of Commons spending watchdog found. Ministers only started efforts to buy more ventilators on 3 March, over a month after the WHO declared the pandemic a public health emergency, the Public Accounts Committee said.

A separate report by the National Audit Office, the body that scrutinizes public spending, found that the UK was too slow to source personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

The UK recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly two months on Tuesday, the latest indication that infections are steadily declining. A further 11,299 new cases were reported, the fewest since 2 October and down from a peak of more than 33,000 on 12 November. Restrictions in England are due to be eased next week to make way for a regional approach that will allow many businesses to reopen, and some socializing.

Italy: Italy reported the highest number of coronavirus fatalities since the height of the pandemic in the spring, even as data on new contagions hinted that the outbreak is slowing down. Daily deaths climbed to 853 Tuesday, the most since March 28 and up from 630 a day earlier. New cases fell 28% from a week earlier to 23,232 with a test positivity rate falling to 12.3%, the lowest in a month. Hospitalized patients fell for the first time in two months, dropping by 114 to 38,393.

Vaccine news

Thailand: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will sign an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc on Friday to procure Covid-19 vaccines, according to a government statement. Thailand may receive the vaccine doses by mid-2021. Siam Bioscience will produce the vaccines at its facilities, and Thailand will receive technology transfer.

China: China National Biotec Group Co. has submitted an application to Chinese regulators, reported state media Xinhua Finance, citing its parent company Sinopharm’s vice general manager Shi Shengyi. Unlike western frontrunners, CNBG has yet to release any public data on the efficacy of its shots in Phase III trials, making it difficult to compare its vaccines to others, or estimate how quickly it is likely to receive approval.

Lockdown updates

Australia: South Australia is overhauling its system of hotel quarantine after discovering that two returned overseas travelers and a security guard mysteriously contracted Covid-19 at an isolation facility. Authorities have scoured CCTV images and have so far failed to identify how the couple who’d returned from Nepal and the guard became infected at the so-called medi-hotel in Adelaide. A hotel cleaner also caught the virus and the state is now trying to contain a cluster of 29 cases in the state capital.

Canada: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency as case rates surged to the second highest in Canada. Alberta will ban indoor social gatherings and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people. Students in grades 7-12 will stop in-person learning on 30 November  and return to school in January.

France: President Emmanuel Macron announced a three-stage easing of the country’s month-long lockdown, beginning this weekend with the reopening of “non-essential” businesses such as hairdressers and clothes shops, which will have to observe strict distancing rules and close at 9pm.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing a further tightening of the country’s coronavirus restrictions, setting the stage for another tense round of discussions with the country’s 16 state leaders who have called for more lenient measures. Merkel will talk to regional premiers on Wednesday to agree on an extension of the country’s partial shutdown until at least 20 December.

Japan: Japan has withdrawn the cities of Osaka and Sapporo from its controversial Go To Travel campaign, which was launched in July to help the country’s Covid-hit economy. Pressure has been building on the government to rethink the scheme, which offers generous discounts on travel and accommodation, after experts said it was contributing to the recent rise in coronavirus infections in parts of Japan.

The foreign ministers of China and Japan agreed at a meeting in Tokyo to lift some virus-related travel restrictions by the end of the month. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is the first senior Chinese official to visit Japan since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September. At the meeting, Wang and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, agreed to restart some travel for businesspeople and residents before the end of November.

Tokyo plans to ask residents to avoid non-essential trips outdoors and will request bars and restaurants to close early as the city combats a surge in coronavirus infections, according to local media reports. The moves, set to be announced by Governor Yuriko Koike later on Wednesday, represent some of the strictest steps the city has taken to combat the pandemic since it was under a state of emergency in spring. They come as the city was reported to have 401 new coronavirus infections in a single day, while serious Covid-19 cases rose to 54.